3 Ways to Take Care of You, "The Therapist"
By Lori Derr
Being a mental health therapist can be both rewarding and stressful all at the same time. As therapists, we tend to be in tune with and capable of helping our clients deal with stress, but it is often a different story when it comes to identifying and managing our own stress.
Being able to manage our own stress helps us be more present with our clients. Here are
three ways that I have found to manage stress throughout the workday.
Breathing is an automatic process that our body does without our brain needing to think about it.
How often do you stop and pay attention to your breath? How often do you focus on how your breath feels as it moves in and out of your body?
Deep breathing is a technique that mental health therapists, yoga instructors, and massage therapists often teach to their clients as a way to help them regulate and be mindful, but how often do we use the technique ourselves?
Take time throughout your day to practice deep breathing. There are several apps that will send you reminders and will also guide you through breathing techniques. Also, you can simply place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart as you practice inhaling, feeling the chest and abdomen rise, pause between the inhale and exhale, and then focusing on exhaling- releasing the air out of the lungs and abdomen.
Hours of sitting can take a toll on the body and leave you feeling sore. To combat this, make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to practice some simple yoga poses. A few of my favorite poses to incorporate throughout my day are cat/cow, modified sun salutations,
and spinal twist. These poses can be modified to be practiced ANYWHERE.
Yoga has helped me
connect with myself and be mindful of how I’m feeling. When I am stressed out or overwhelmed, Yoga keeps me grounded and reminds of what is truly important.
Modified Cat Pose (Marjaryasana) - Begin by sitting up tall in your chair, lengthening the
spine, hands placed on your thighs. Lift the tailbone towards the back of your head as you bring your head back looking up toward the ceiling. Your belly should be extended and heart lifted toward the ceiling. Elbows should be drawing back as you squeeze the shoulder blades together.
Modified Cow Pose (Bitilasana) - From cat pose round out the spine, arching the back,
tucking the tailbone and tucking the chin in toward the chest. Your body should look like a C shape. Arms will come forward as the shoulders round in toward the front of the body.
Modified Sun Salutations - Start in a standing position. Inhale as you raise your arms
overhead bringing the palms of the hands together above your head. From here, do a slight back bend. On the exhale, bring the hands to heart center and hinge forward at the hips into a forward fold position. Hands may come to the knees, shins, or floor. Inhale back to standing and repeat the sequence a few times to get the body loosened up and the blood flowing.
Spinal Twist - This pose can be done from a sitting or standing position. Begin by
lengthening the spine, on the inhale stretch the arms overhead and, on the exhale, twist the trunk of the body so the chest is facing one side as you lower the arms back down. On the next inhalation, raise the arms overhead again as you turn to the opposite direction.
Being Mindful and Reflective
Take time in your day to check-in with yourself and see how you are feeling, both physically and mentally. Check your physical comfort level by identifying what is going on in your body at that time.
Perhaps you are feeling restless or uncomfortable from hours of sitting or maybe you need to recharge your energy level with a drink or snack.
Be mindful of what your body is trying to tell you about what it needs.
Check in with your emotions as well.
As a child therapist, I am often teaching/modeling for children and parents emotional regulation skills. One of the first steps in emotional regulation is being able to identify how you are feeling. Practice self-reflection on a regular basis, like every day, to identify your feelings so you can be sure that your emotional needs are being met.
Holding space for clients can be difficult when they are sharing traumatic stories. It is CRUCIAL that we are able to identify how we have been affected and to learn skills to help ourselves process the information and regulate our own responses.
These are just a few basic techniques to help you “take care of the therapist,” so the therapist can take care of the clients.
Lori Derr graduated with a Master of Social Work degree from New Mexico State University. Lori provides individual, family, and group counseling. She has training in Child-Parent Psychotherapy, Infant Mental Health, Circle of Security, Trauma, and is currently working on becoming a Registered Play Therapist. Lori is also a Licensed Massage Therapist and recently became a Registered Yoga Teacher.